Katrina & Beyond

Secret Stash Found in Crumbling Louisiana Walls

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Money is surfacing in the ruins along the Gulf Coast. College student Trista Wright spent her spring break as a volunteer in Arabi, La., gutting hurricane-damaged houses. Last week, deep in moldy, crumbling sheetrock, she stumbled upon a hidden treasure.


Trista Wright spent her spring break last week as a volunteer in New Orleans gutting hurricane-damaged homes. On Wednesday, deep in moldy, crumbling sheetrock, she stumbled upon a hidden treasure. We spoke to Trista Wright by cell phone while she was on her way back to school in Savannah, Georgia.

So tell us what you found.

Ms. TRISTA WRIGHT (Freshman, Armstrong Atlantic State University): Well, we were mudding out a house, and we had just torn down the sheetrock in a bedroom, and a friend of mine, Duane, and I were raking out the sheetrock, and I started raking out a closet where an air conditioner vent had used to be, and I raked out a lot of $100 bills.

I bent down and picked it up and I thought it was Monopoly money from a board game, and we realized it was real money, so we called our pastor over, and we began raking out a whole lot more.

ELLIOTT: How much did you end up pulling out?

Ms. WRIGHT: I think they told me it was approximately $30,000. That's what I've been told.

ELLIOTT: So what did you do with the money?

Ms. WRIGHT: Well, the lady who we were cleaning out the house for was out in the yard, so we notified her, and she was very excited.

ELLIOTT: Now the owner of the house has asked to remain anonymous, but...

Ms. WRIGHT: Yes, ma'am.

ELLIOTT: ...can you tell us what the story behind the money was?

Ms. WRIGHT: Apparently, this is her parents' home, and they had passed away recently, and she pretty much inherited the house, and over the last three years, she'd been taking care of her mother in the house, and her mother had never mentioned anything to her about it. So she passed away not too long ago and they knew that she had a lot of money, but it wasn't in her bank account, and so they didn't they never knew what happened to it till a couple of days ago.

ELLIOTT: Was there any explanation of why it would have been in the wall and not in a bank?

Ms. WRIGHT: Well, it was old money, and she had said that her parents, after the Depression and all, they were a little, a little untrustworthy of the bank system and everything, so they would just keep their money in different places and stuff.

ELLIOTT: Problem was they forgot to tell their daughter.

Ms. WRIGHT: Yes.

ELLIOTT: Was she excited to hear about the money? Did she need it?

Ms. WRIGHT: Well, the home had been severely damaged so it was a blessing for her. She was speechless at first, but she was excited, and we were talking, and she could've hired people to come and mud out her house and bulldozer it down, and then she never would've known.

ELLIOTT: And it sounds like you guys weren't even tempted to pocket any of it, huh?

Ms. WRIGHT: Oh, no, ma'am. So many people have asked me about that, and they've been like, that was so nice of you not to have kept any of it, and you know, if I'd stolen the money, it would have been a temporary happiness and the (unintelligible) of my soul would have regretted it.

ELLIOTT: Trista Wright is a freshman at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Georgia. Thanks for talking with us, Trista.

Ms. WRIGHT: Thank you very much, ma'am. God bless you.

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